When the Bengals decided to make the long-assumed decision to draft quarterback Joe Burrow official, everyone knew it would just be a matter of time before he was named their starter.
What we didn't know was that Cincinnati was prepared to hand him the keys to the car and without a second thought. The immediate aftermath of drafting Burrow saw the Bengals part ways with their veteran quarterback Andy Dalton, who they had been searching for a trade partner for over the course of several weeks. With Dalton out of the building, perhaps the biggest surprise of all came next. When asked about his quarterback room last week, coach Zac Taylor didn't hesitate.
Oh, well then. The Bengals are considering their quarterback room locked and loaded with quarterbacks Burrow, Ryan Finley and Jacob Dolegala being the only talents on the roster.
"We've got three young guys we really look forward to investing a lot of reps in,” Taylor continued. “We think they have bright futures. We feel really good about where we're at right now."
And Taylor may not be wrong; at least not about Burrow. But is this the best way to handle the team's No. 1 selection and new face of the franchise? Taylor is going to presumably lean on his own experiences as a quarterback — playing for Wake Forest and Nebraska, Tampa Bay and Winnipeg — plus his time alongside Sean McVay in Los Angeles to serve as the needed mentor to Burrow. Such an investment would presumably occupy a lot of Taylor's coaching time and would by extension put more direction and leadership onto the plates of his coordinators. The problem with such an approach is that Taylor's two coordinators, Brian Callahan and Lou Anarumo, have a combined two and a half accrued seasons as coordinators of their own.
At the end of the day, the Bengals need to prepare Burrow for life as an NFL quarterback, and they may be able to do so with this current structure. But this probably isn't the best exposure the Bengals could provide. Even if Cincinnati wanted to avoid any temptation for a quarterback other than Burrow being the starter, having a long-tenured veteran backup affords the opportunity to provide valuable insight — both in-game and through preparation.
Ironically enough, coach Taylor seems to agree; or at least he did in December when asked about veteran experience.
"You’re looking for guys who have experience in all the rooms, whether it is quarterback or offensive line or whatever it is. Experience is always valuable, you need it on your team," Taylor said ahead of the end of the 2019 season. "You need guys to use it the right way and help the younger guys even if you’re competing at a job."
That's a resounding consensus amid starting quarterbacks in the NFL too. Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes spoke about the impact and influence veteran quarterback Alex Smith had on him over a short time.
"I learned a ton from Alex Smith," Mahomes said. "I attribute a lot of my success, especially so early in my career, to him.
"The way he was able to go about being a professional, going out and having the great year he had my first year, and just seeing how he went about it every single day, how he game-planned, how he recognized coverages."
The Chiefs were one of the select few teams who have had the luxury in recent years of drafting a young quarterback early and having the chance to sit him; as they did with Mahomes sitting 15 games his rookie year before taking over for Smith the following year. That isn't the case anymore and won't be the case for the Bengals, but that still doesn't diminish the value of an experienced quarterback in the room to aid with the weekly preparation process. Quarterback Daniel Jones, a 2019 rookie, was quick to offer praise to veteran Eli Manning, who yielded the starting job to Jones in September, for his experience and leadership in a backup role.
"Last year, working with Alex (Tanney) and Eli in the room, I think I learned a ton just being around those guys. Hearing those guys talk, how they watch film and kinda what they are looking for," Jones said. "Plays they like, plays they didn't like and why they wouldn't. You know, all those things and just hearing them talk about the game; hearing all the things that they would think about was huge for me and my growth."
After the offseason retirement of Manning, the Giants promptly signed free agent Colt McCoy to serve in the team's backup quarterback, ensuring their second-year passer has a sounding board at his disposal.
The list of destinations that saw rookie quarterbacks benefit from veteran backups is extensive, but Burrow won't have that opportunity early on with the Bengals. The team must instead hope their coaching staff is capable of providing the insight of a long-tenured eye instead and do so without the expense of time invested into the rest of the team and preparations. That's a tough task, but also one the Bengals seem to be committed to; and we'll only know how it plays out with time.
- May 16, 2022
- May 16, 2022